Since joining various theatre groups in London, Ontario, six years ago, I have become accustomed to LOTS more hugging than I experience in other parts of my life. Everybody hugs everybody all the time. Well... nearly everybody hugs nearly everybody nearly all the time.
In my adult lifetime, I can think of two times when I may have started to hug someone and then realized that they didn't want to be hugged. There were probably more. It's hard to stop in mid-hug, so when I sensed it, I just gave a very light, perfunctory type of hug.
In my adult lifetime, I can recall two times when I was hugged when I didn't want to be hugged. There may have been more that seemed inconsequential at the time, but I don't remember them, and I expect the hugger in all these instances might have been unaware that I was uncomfortable with the hug or maybe, as I did, converted it into a perfunctory pretend hug.
I like the hugging, in general, especially among my theatre friends. I like the closeness, and I even like the pretense of closeness. I like both.
And yet, there are times when I'm uncomfortable with it, and I expect others are, too. Most of those times, I or we sense the situation and shake hands, if it's another guy, or avoid the situation somehow if it's a female.
But here's the question: In light of these data from The Economist, what hugging is assault or at the very least an affront?
I know that rarely, if ever, did I see or experience any hugging among my colleagues in the 40+ years that I taught economics at The University of Western Ontario. It just wasn't the done thing. And I expect that's the norm for many, if not most, academic and business environments.
And yet there have been times when a colleague with whom I felt close and I would see each other in a non-work setting and a hug sometimes seemed appropriate and we hugged. Not often, but a few times.
I just wonder how people know what is appropriate? If you feel like hugging someone and start to hug them, you can usually judge the intensity of the reciprocal feeling -- some people go into the hug with more enthusiasm than others. It's possible in these situations to have a perfunctory, polite hug that is probably not offensive. I hope it isn't anyway.
In theatre (in London, at least) hugs seem to be the default. Not always, though.
And given that different actions seem to be unwanted by the recipients at times, it is not always easy to judge.